The rise of The Animal: Batista's 10 biggest moments

Batista’s build wasn’t a slow one. The moment the 300-plus pounder first emerged from the back like a gladiator entering a Roman coliseum, WWE fans knew he was a guy who would become an important player with immediacy. For Batista — as it has been for every Superstar with his rare combination of size and mobility — the hype came easily, but it’s the task of living up to the hype that has always been the challenge. 

Watch Batista's most epic matches |  Check out photos from The Animal's career

Big Dave delivered, of course, becoming a WWE Champion, Royal Rumble Match winner and WrestleMania main eventer in less than a decade before suddenly quitting sports-entertainment in 2010. Now, as his Jan. 20 return date looms, WWE.com looks back at the 10 integral moments that allowed Batista to evolve from man to The Animal.

May 9, 2002: Batista debuts

Every Superstar has to start somewhere, right? Before he becomes the unstoppable Animal responsible for more destruction than Michael Bay’s film career, Batista pays his dues as a hired hand to Reverend D-Von. Luckily, this sin is quickly forgiven … and forgotten.

Watch Batista's first WWE match

Nov. 4, 2002: Batista goes solo

Re-debuting simply as Batista, the 6-foot-5, 317-pound monster is hyped with vignettes claiming “The Genetic Revolution Has Begun.” The first victim of Batista's devastation — Justin Credible — marks the emphatic debut of the human juggernaut.

Relive the destruction of Batista's first match

Feb. 3, 2003: Batista joins Evolution

After several weeks of hinting at some sort of allegiance between the four, Batista, Triple H, Randy Orton and Ric Flair make it official by announcing the formation of their super-stable, Evolution, which they claim represents the past, present and future of WWE. They’re right, and no one can stop them.

Meet Evolution

Jan. 30, 2005: Batista wins the Royal Rumble Match

Entering at No. 28, Batista engages John Cena in a scrap that sends them both over the top rope. When the match is re-started, The Animal tosses John Cena to the floor and stamps his ticket to the main event at WrestleMania 21.

Watch Batista win the 2005 Royal Rumble Match

Feb. 21, 2005: Batista turns on Triple H

Despite weeks of attempted persuasion toward the WWE Championship instead of his own World Heavyweight Championship, Triple H is unable to convince Batista to leave him be. The Animal gives The Game a symbolic thumbs down before signing the title opportunity contract, and Batista Bombing Triple H through the table on which he did it.

Relive this shocking moment

April 3, 2005: Batista wins the World Heavyweight Title

After learning from the best, Batista beats the best when he drops Triple H at WrestleMania 21 to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. Batista successfully defends the title throughout the year, even becoming the first Superstar to pin Triple H in a Hell in a Cell Match at Vengeance.

Nov. 18, 2007: Batista conquers The Deadman

With bad blood brewing back to WrestleMania, Batista and The Undertaker wage war in a stomach-churningly brutal Hell in a Cell Match at Survivor Series. This time, The Animal — the defending champion — conquers and avenges his earlier loss to The Deadman.

Aug. 17, 2008: Batista beats John Cena

SummerSlam’s main event pits two icons against each other for the first time ever as Batista faces John Cena in a truly epic clash of Superstars. In the end, Batista hammers Cena with two Batista Bombs — one, a counter to Cena’s top rope legdrop — and notches the first victory in the rivalry.

Watch the first showdown between Batista and Cena

Oct. 25, 2009: Batista attacks Rey Mysterio

Frustrated at his inability to once again regain a major WWE title, Batista attacks best friend Rey Mysterio after a Fatal 4-Way Match at WWE Bragging Rights (also featuring The Undertaker and CM Punk), blaming The Master of the 619 for the loss. WWE fans are shocked, but The Animal doesn’t care as he mauls Mysterio.

See Batista's vicious attack on his friend

May 24, 2010: Batista quits

After losing to John Cena in brutal “I Quit” Match at WWE Over The Limit, an increasingly-frustrated Batista throws a hissy fit, grabs a mic, and quits WWE. He hasn’t been seen in a WWE ring since. That will change on Jan. 20, 2014 on Raw.

Watch Batista's infamous walkout 

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